Man who toppled Paris mayor hopeful charged over sex videos

PARIS (AP) — A controversial Russian performance artist who claimed responsibility for releasing sex videos that brought down a high-profile candidate for Paris mayor has been handed preliminary charges for violation of privacy and publishing sexual images or comments without the consent of the person.

Pyotr Pavlensky, a refugee, was released from custody and placed under judicial supervision Tuesday, said his lawyer, Yassine Bouzrou, adding that his client refused to answer investigators’ questions.

Pavlensky’s girlfriend, Alexandra de Taddeo, was also under judicial supervision and handed the same preliminary charges, her lawyer, Noemie Saidi-Cottier, said.

Benjamin Griveaux, the mayoral candidate for President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist party, stepped aside after the scandal over the leaked explicit videos of him erupted in French media last week.

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Pavlensky claimed again responsibility Tuesday evening. He told reporters he is “glad to have done this” to denounce “hypocrisy” and “lies” by Griveaux.

Taddeo acknowledged she was the recipient of sex videos allegedly sent to her by Griveaux but denies being involved in their publication on the internet, her lawyer said.

French media report videos are believed to have been sent in May 2018 by Griveaux, then the government spokesman, to Taddeo before she became Pavlensky’s girlfriend.

Griveaux, 42, married with three children, announced his withdrawal from the Paris race last Friday, saying his family “doesn’t deserve this.” He didn’t comment specifically on the authenticity of the images or their content.

Rapid expressions of support for Griveaux, even from political rivals, were a striking reminder of the longstanding and widely held view in France that public servants’ private lives are largely off limits.

Critics, though, say Pavlensky’s case is being politicized because Griveaux was Macron’s candidate.

Former Health Minister Agnes Buzyn was selected to replace Griveaux as candidate in the two-round election that begins in a month.

Pavlensky, an artist noted for macabre, politically charged actions, left Russia in 2017 after being told of rape accusations against him and later announced that France had granted him political asylum.

He is also being investigated over a separate case involving “violence with a weapon” on New Year’s Eve. French news media report Pavlensky allegedly drew a knife during a dispute at a Paris apartment in which two people were hurt.

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